The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: More Women Access Family Planning Services - Report

Rwanda is among the top three African countries to record an increase in the use of modern family planning contraceptives, the latest report on the State of World Population 2012 shows.

The United Nations Population Fund, (UNFPA) report that was released last week says, "the use of modern methods of family planning has increased in recent years in Eastern Africa, particularly Ethiopia, Malawi and Rwanda but there has been no increase in use of modern methods in Central and Western Africa."

Speaking to The New Times, Arthur Asiimwe, Head of Division, Rwanda Biomedical Centre/Health Communication Centre, pointed out that Rwanda's success mainly hinges on increased rollout of family planning tools across the country which are freely accessible at all healthy facilities.

"We also use community health workers to mobilise and sensitise mothers which is an instrumental step in improving family planning in our country but we also came up with new measures like vasectomy, which has also partly contributed to improvement of our family planning methods," said Asiimwe.

According to the report, failure to meet sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents and young people contributed to high rates of unintended pregnancy and HIV.

It points out that births among adolescents were declining in most regions but the rate of decline has slowed in some parts of the world. It had even reversed in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa where births among adolescents are the highest in the world.

"In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 have on average 120 births per 1,000 per year, ranging from a high of 199 per 1,000 girls in Niger to a low of 43 per 1,000 girls in Rwanda. Over half of young women give birth before age, and adolescent fertility in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa has shown little decline since 1990," adds the report.

Rwanda has recorded fewer pregnancies among adolescents due to intensified sexual reproduction education within schools, according to Asiimwe.

"There is intensified educational programmes among young people on being sexually responsible and this has paid off," Asiimwe noted.

The report points out that making voluntary family planning methods available to everyone in developing countries would reduce costs for maternal and newborn healthcare by $11.3 billion annually.

According to the UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, family planning has a positive multiplier effect on development.

"Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women's increased labour-force participation boosts nations' economies," Osotimehin said.

The report adds that governments, civil society, health providers and communities have the responsibility to protect the right to family planning for women across the spectrum, including those who are young or unmarried.

However, it finds that financial resources for family planning have declined and contraceptive use has remained mostly steady.

In 2010, donor countries fell US$500 million short of their expected contribution to sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries. Contraceptive prevalence has increased globally by just 0.1 percent annually over the last few years.

Last July, at the London Summit on Family Planning, donor countries and foundations together pledged $2.6 billion to avail family planning to 120 million women with unmet needs in developing countries by 2020. Developing countries themselves also pledged to increase support.

But, according to the report, an additional US$4.1 billion is necessary each year to meet the unmet need for family planning of all 222 million women who would use family planning but currently lack access to it. This investment would save lives by preventing unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions.

"Family planning is not a privilege, but a right. Yet, too many women-and men-are denied this human right," said Dr. Osotimehin.

"The pledge we made in July in London to increase access to family planning will improve the lives of millions and will each year help avert 200,000 maternal deaths. As we approach the target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, I call on all leaders to build on this momentum, close the funding gap, and make voluntary family planning a development priority."

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